Half Dome – Yosemite – Top of a paradise

Half Dome – Yosemite – Top of a paradise

“Rising nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level, Half Dome is a Yosemite icon and a great challenge to many hikers. Despite an 1865 report declaring that it was "perfectly inaccessible, being probably the only one of the prominent points about the Yosemite which never has been, and never will be, trodden by human foot," George Anderson reached the summit in 1875, in the process laying the predecessor to today's cable route (official website: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/halfdome.htm.)”


Yosemite is a spectacular and amazing place, and whether you’re coming into the Valley from the HW 120 or 140 or looking into it from Glacier point Half Dome is always be enthroned.
For the hike on it, you need a permit and you really shouldn’t be afraid of heights. Per day only 200 permits are available and you normally get your permit trough a lottery system. However, even if you didn’t get a permit, Yosemite is always worth a visit and apart of the Half Dome hike there are many other backpacking trails or even just hanging out in the valley is super beautiful but often extremely crowded.



For us (I did this hike as a part of a road trip from Vancouver to San Francisco with my dad) it was even more crowded. I got the permit for the 2nd of September, which means to be there without a campground reservation during the Labour day weekend. We just realized that, when we arrived the Friday morning and got one of the last spots on the White wolf campground, around 1 hour out of the Valley and up the Tioga road (HW 120). We also somehow forgot how could it can be up there during the night. While it was almost 30 °C during the day down in the valley, the car thermometer showed 3 °C in the morning, so we not really slept in our summer sleeping bags. We decided it would be a very tough hike lacking two nights of sleep, so we decided to take the risk looking for a warmer spot outside of the park. The three big campgrounds in the valley – Upper, Middle and Lower Pine are on reservation campgrounds. Camp 4 is a cheap and very nice walk in option, if you are arriving really early. It’s a famous climber campground, I recommend to watch the movie – Valley uprising, to feel the spirit of this campground. Luckily and total surprisingly, we found a spot on a campground close to El Portal, which only had 8 spots in total but because of the fires 3 weeks before all reservation have been cancelled and the reservation system wasn’t working again, yet. So, we had a sandy spot next to the Meadow river and away from the crowds and most important it was way warmer than our previous spot (~ 15 to 17 °C) .


The park information recommends to start the Half Dome hike at 4 am in the morning, taking 4 liter of water with you and to expect a ~ 12 hour hike. After driving back into the park and a morning café for my dad, we finally started our hike at around 6 am after waking up at 4.20 am – sometimes time is flying.


The first part to the Vernal Fall Footbridge is almost paved and easy to moderate even it has already an elevation gain of 120 m. The way is splitting up here and you can choose if you want take the Muir or the Mist trail to the top of Nevada falls. We took the left path (Mist trail) to the top of Vernal Falls – a beautiful waterfall!. Even at 6 am you’re not alone on the trail but surrounded by total different type of hikers - Families, couples or solo hikers…, one day, two days or weeks on the John Muir trail. My dad decided shortly after passing the Little Yosemite Valley to call it a day and return. If I would hike the trail again, I think it’s wise to do it in two or even more days and spend a night up at the Little Yosemite campground. It’s not as crowded as in the valley and you can enjoy the Half Dome at sunrise or sunset. You need a wilderness pass permit for the campground but I got the very interesting info that it’s normally easy to purchase an extra 10$ to add the Half Dome permit without going trough the lottery system – not totally sure about it but worth a try and probably the easier and more flexible way.


At  around 1 pm and 6 hours of hiking and splitting of from my dad. I finally changed the hike to a trail run. After passing the tree line, you have a great view on the High Sierras and Half Dome and the cables. The cables are the last decision point for a bunch of people. They are really steep and it’s just one middle line between two steel cables for both directions, so it takes a lot of time, especially because some people don’t move at all – kind of paralyzed by their fear. Gloves are recommend but I had no problems without them. I also went up on the outside of the cable, which I here definitely not recommend and I’m not sure if it’s allowed and people said it’s crazy but if you’re a decent climber with grippy shoes and always take at least one hand on the cable, I think it’s pretty safe and it can save over an hour. It took me 15 min for the cables while other people were still waiting there when I went down again almost an hour later.





The downhill run is like normal just fun! From the Nevada falls I took this time the other, John Muir, trail which I personally liked better. But you should take the opportunity to take the full hike as a round trip and really experience both ways. With running afterwards the loop to Mirror lake, I made it up to a marathon distance to call it a Yosemite - Half Dome marathon – no need to do it yourself but I guess a fun thing if you are a runner. I was back at the parking lot at 6 pm. In Half Dome Village are showers for 5 dollar and you can get a towel but they’re connected to the toilets, so if you’re going inside with your own towel in your backpack you can save some money or just take a cold fresh swim in the river 😉.




Take sunscreen, enough water and food and some warm layers for the top with you. Also, like always a headlamp, first aid and good profiled shoes. Have fun and be amazed by this paradise – Yosemite!


Links: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/halfdome.htm


Strava recording: https://www.strava.com/activities/1817614580


Cheers for reading,